HC Deb 31 March 1998 vol 309 cc1018-9
2. Mrs. Gordon

When he expects to publish a White Paper on the future government of London. [35441]

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. John Prescott)

I announced last week the publication of a White Paper, "A Mayor and Assembly for London", which sets out our proposals for a new Greater London authority made up of an elected mayor and a separately elected assembly.

Mrs. Gordon

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. I was quite impressed that, no sooner had I tabled my question, the White Paper was published. That highlights the speed and determination with which the Government are bringing democracy back to the governance of London. Does not my right hon. Friend consider it fitting that we should be discussing the matter today, the 12th anniversary of the abolition of the Greater London council when the previous Tory Government handed over vital London services to unelected quangos? How do the Government intend to encourage the people of London to vote on 7 May, when I am sure there will be a resounding yes vote?

Mr. Prescott

The House will have noticed that, although my hon. Friend is a new Member, she has considerable influence on the Department's production of White Papers. She gives me the opportunity to recognise the anniversary of the abolition of the GLC and compare the Government's approach to the voice of London with that of the previous Administration, who abolished the GLC without any consultation. It is vital that as many people as possible vote on 7 May. We must all do our part, even if I have to stand in front of a goalpost.

Mr. Burstow

As the White Paper acknowledges that Londoners want a new non-confrontational style of politics in London, and as the Government have been persuaded of the case for proportional representation in electing the assembly, are they equally open-minded on the policy of extending non-confrontational politics to the rest of local government by introducing fair votes for elections to town and county halls?

Mr. Prescott

I do not know whether I am the best person to advocate a non-confrontational approach to politics—each to his own—but we have made a judgment that the supplementary vote and the additional member system are appropriate and will encourage more Londoners to vote on 7 May and elect the mayor and assembly for which they are waiting.

Mr. Ottaway

Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware that when the Greater London Authority (Referendum) Bill was considered on Report, the Minister for London and Construction gave an undertaking that full information about the Government's proposals would be available before Londoners voted in the referendum? Does he agree that all sources of revenue to the Greater London authority are of paramount interest to voters? Is he aware that the White Paper leaves open whether a so-called congestion tax and a parking levy would be a source of revenue for the new authority? We know that the Liberal Democrats want it, but will he come clean before the referendum and honour the Minister's pledge? Will there be a tax on motorists—yes or no?

Mr. Prescott

I made it absolutely clear last week that matters of congestion and parking levies are being considered. The hon. Gentleman will have his answer when the White Paper is published.